The gender pay gap is getting worse in the tech industry, study shows

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Will the Great Resignation help push it the other direction? Perhaps.

TechRepublic’s Karen Roby spoke with Rachel Roumeliotis, VP of content strategy for O’Reilly Media, about the gender wage gap. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

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Karen Roby: We talk a lot about salary gaps, and we’ve been hearing about that for a long time. And a lot of industries are saying, “We’re bridging that gap, and we’re making that a thing in the past.” At O’Reilly Media, you guys set out to do a survey on this. We’ll dissect a little bit of this survey here and the findings. But right off the top, give us a couple of the highlights that really stood out to you.

Rachel Roumeliotis: Unfortunately the number one highlight is that compensation for women was significantly lower than men at 84%. [Women earned 84% of men’s salaries, according to the survey.]

Karen Roby: Wow.

Rachel Roumeliotis: Yeah. And I looked around a little bit, that unfortunately seems par for the course across industries. I saw that that was true for physicians, recently I read an article on that, so that wasn’t great. And then even when a woman is more highly educated, same problem.

It’s not about education, which one could look to for a reason. And it doesn’t look like unfortunately it has changed that much in the past year or is going to change soon, although I have some ideas on that.

Karen Roby: Well, yeah, that’s the distressful part here is that at least when something you say, “Well, this is the way it’s been, but here’s why we know it’s getting better.” But what you’re suggesting as well, that “getting better” part may not really be there.

Rachel Roumeliotis: It really hasn’t moved all that much in the data and artificial intelligence space, or tech in general. I was reading up, I guess in different areas people have to say what their pay is, men and women. So, the U.K. has done this. They have to report what the salaries are. That hasn’t made anything change. I think we’re going to have to take it into our own hands. Just reporting that there’s a difference, even though we’re like, “That’s not right,” it doesn’t seem to be making the change that fast.

There’s a couple of things I read. In Iceland there is apparently a law now that the gender gap pay has to start to disappear. I don’t know if we need to go that far. But just last night it was reported that Microsoft actually, there was an internal spreadsheet going around where people were putting how long they had been at the company, their compensation, etc. Because there’s this taboo you’re not supposed to talk about what you make.

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So is there a generational change that’s happening where, who does that actually serve? I don’t know.

Karen Roby: Question, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, and you’d think it wouldn’t, shouldn’t have to come to making it a law, like you mentioned with Iceland, but I feel like we’re almost there. Because we can do surveys and we can say, “This is what the data’s showing us.” And women are just as educated and women are just as competent, so why are we still here?

Rachel Roumeliotis: I think unfortunately, as much progress has been made, it still seems that there’s still a glass ceiling where women are making it to a certain level but not necessarily the highest level, like of the CEO. And I think that sways the numbers a little bit. I think one thing that might help and I’m sure you’ve heard about, it’s the Great Resignation.

Rachel Roumeliotis: About how people are like, “I want to work, but not for that pay.” Or, “I want to do something that is more fulfilling.” I think there’s a couple of things. One, I think that companies are looking for employees. And especially in the data and AI space, AI specifically, there’s not enough AI specialists.

Karen Roby: Right.

Rachel Roumeliotis: I guess what I would say is, know your worth. Go and look at what people are being paid for that job or similar jobs in a specific area. Although that may change too with remote work. And I would just say, there’s the old adage, I don’t know if this is true or not, but women just don’t ask, do you know what I mean? A lot of times. So making sure that you’re educated and that you know.

But I mean, speaking of surveys, there’s been other surveys where having a diverse executive team or people in your team in general helps the company. So I don’t see why we wouldn’t want to do this.

Karen Roby: All of those reasons make it obvious to me that it would seem that that would be what you would want to do and make sure that that’s not a problem. And you mentioned it, but when we talk about tech specifically, Rachel, between AI, cybersecurity certainly. We have so many openings and just don’t have enough qualified people.

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You’d think tech would be one of those areas where we’re not seeing this problem, but in fact it’s glaring.

Rachel Roumeliotis: Yeah. It is. And maybe because there are so many openings, we’ll see a shift. I don’t know.

Karen Roby: Rachel, when you guys looked at this survey, was there … I don’t know how specifically or the type of size of companies that we’re talking about here, or if that matters or if it’s a larger company?

Rachel Roumeliotis: It was through … I can tell you a couple of things. Of the respondents, about 80% were men, 14 identified as women. And then there are about 5% that identified as other or they. So that’s just something to give you an idea of who we heard from. But then as far as industry, within being in tech, or size of company or where someone lived, there really was not a big difference as far as that gap.

Let’s see. The other thing, too. Men I think got more promotions or more dollars per promotion. I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know if that also goes back to women taking off time for childcare and losing that time. But yeah, it doesn’t seem right, does it?

Karen Roby: It doesn’t. And it’s interesting to see, I mean, we’re, gosh, what are we, 18 months into this pandemic now? I’m trying to think back of when it all … It sometimes feels like Groundhog Day, but we’ve seen changes. I mean, over, let’s call it a year and a half, with everyone going remote and then some starting to come back. And then people start leaving their jobs, like you mentioned, the Great Resignation. And childcare is an issue.

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And there’s so many factors going into it. But it will be interesting to see, say, even a year from now, how this pandemic and these changes and shifts we’re seeing, how that will have an impact, hopefully a positive one, on salaries as it relates to women in that gap there.

Rachel Roumeliotis: I think that it will. I think that’s going to have an effect on where you can and will live. I think that, as you said, I think people are going to be taking a hard look at their teams and what their teams are demanding to be paid, among other benefits. And I think when we do this at our own company, I mean, It’s very open at our company. We’re very fair across roles and in terms of how long you’ve been with the company.

I think companies just have to look at the value of their workers and as sort of agents of getting work done and part of the team, rather than spots to fill. I think that’s good for a company. I know there might be an initial crush to the operations budget, but I think ultimately you’ll have happier, more-engaged employees. And like I said, you want a diverse workforce because it helps your company. I mean, I think it would be good for everyone.

I’m hopeful that there is, because of this Great Resignation, that there is a sea change that’s going to happen that will affect the gap pay as well.

Karen Roby: Yeah, cautiously optimistic for that. And again, Rachel, just to round out here, and I like to leave people with a little nugget or something to think about, and you mentioned this with women. Part of the problem could be that they’re just not asking for it. Or they don’t maybe know their value or their worth enough when going in for, whether it’s an interview or for a review to see if they can get a promotion or a bump in pay. But I think doing research, knowing your value and asking for it, that could make a big difference.

Rachel Roumeliotis: I totally agree.

Karen Roby: Yeah. Some things to keep in mind there, Rachel. And again, hopefully a year from now or two years from now when you all do a survey like this, we do see a change.

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